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The CIS and Baltic press on Russia




The national press is blaming Russia for traffic jams at the Russian-Estonian and Russian-Latvian borders. Newspapers are writing that lines of trucks appeared at the borders after the Russian president expressed his discontent with rampant corruption in the customs, and ineffective efforts against smuggling. Moreover, Russian customs officials may be deliberately creating these lines for political ends. "There is an obvious link between lines of trucks in Narva and developments in Russian-Estonian relations... The artificial traffic jams at the border are the Russian way of protecting compatriots." (Postimees, August 21.)


The media have extensively covered the meeting of the EurAsEc (Eurasian Economic Community) leaders in Sochi. They are actively discussing whether Russia will be able to use it as a counterbalance against the Western bloc, particularly the United States. "Putin's strategic plan is to create a counterweight against the West, especially, the U.S.... Washington is not going to like it. Currently, it is frantically stepping up its efforts to weaken Russia's positions in Central Asia, both politically and economically. The U.S. Department of State is ready to make friends even with not-so-democratic regimes in an all-out bid to weaken Russia's positions in oil and gas supplies... There are several obstacles in the Kremlin's way... Thus, Uzbekistan continues refusing to open its borders for free trade with neighboring Tajikistan." (Dienas bizness, August 17.)

Some national publications are blaming the Russian government for the huge lines at the Russian-Latvian customs. They are accusing it of an attempt to discredit Latvia on the eve of the NATO summit and some other major events in Latvia in the near future. "This is no surprise - we know Russia's attitude to us. The closer the NATO summit, the more difficulties Russia will create," said head of the State Border Guard Gunars Dabolins. (Dienas bizness, August 16.)


The press is focusing on Russia's decision to stop oil supplies to Mazeikiu Nafta (MN) because of the accident on the Druzhba pipeline. The public concern was caused by the information that the Polish concern PKN Orlen may refuse to buy the plant because of a sharp decline in MN share prices. "If the Poles do not buy the MN, it will fall into the Kremlin's hands." (Respublika, August 18.) "If PKN Orlen refuses to purchase the plant, it will go to the government-controlled companies - either Rosneft or Gazprom owned Sibneft... Rosneft is one of Yukos's biggest creditors. If the deal with the Poles fails, it will get the NM almost for free." (Respublika, August 22.)

A number of publications are writing about the development of Lithuanian business in Russia's Kaliningrad Region. "Local businessmen are not surprised that that Lithuanians have left Poles and Germans far behind in terms of investment. They are quickly adapting to local orders, and written and unwritten business rules. At the same time, features of the Russian bureaucracy have forced many Germans to give up their plans... The main headache is the shortage of manpower. It is an obstacle to business expansion. Alcoholism is also a problem. At present, only the higher executives are from Lithuania, whereas other workers - from foreman to bricklayer - are from Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine." (Respublika, August 21.)


Analyzing the results of Yanukovych's Russian visit, some publications are expressing the hope for national economic revival. "If the Yanukovych government continues being pragmatic and realistic about its own powers, it may well return Ukrainian agricultural products to the Russian market, attract Russian capital to the development of Ukrainian ports and roads, and secure energy carriers for the industry at acceptable prices. Naturally, the government will have to pay for all this with an accelerated integration into joint economic structures with Russian participation, most probably Gazprom's effective control over gas transit via Ukrainian territory, the formation of the gas-supply-and-transport consortium, and renunciation of pointless and prospectless friendship with the Saakashvili regime..." (Oligarkh.net, August 16.)

The proposal of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov on Ukraine's integration into the EurAsEc has evoked a negative response. "It is perfectly obvious that the new Ukrainian Prime Minister is unable and unwilling to go for such a large-scale integration program." (Glavred, August 17.) "The Russians have trapped the Ukrainian Prime Minister politically by inviting him to the summit of this organization... Putin has won because by making it clear that it is enough for him to snap his fingers and Ukrainian bureaucrats will do whatever he wants." (Rupor, August 16.) 


The pro-Rumanian press claims that a whole network of Transdnestr civilian and political organizations is operating under the Federal Security Service tacit aegis. They are promoting the idea of the unrecognized republic's integration into Russia. "In medium-term perspective, Russia wants these organizations to present the illegal Tiraspol regime as a democratic entity, and to control this territory from a distance, like it does with Kaliningrad... The West should react to this before it is too late, and prevent the ‘New Kaliningrad on the Dniester." (Flux, August 16.)


One of the opposition leaders, Aram Karapetyan of the New Times Party has given a negative assessment of Armenian-Russian strategic partnership. "The strategic partnership between Armenia and Russia may be replaced with a strategic indifference... Moscow has lost any interest in Armenia... In a situation where Russia does not have more effective levers of influencing Yerevan than sluggish contacts with the Armenian ruling elite, the Americans may very quickly secure a foothold in Armenia... There are almost no Russian-oriented parties in Armenia today, and the opposition is determined to win." (Lragir.am, August 17.)

Some analysts see Russia's recent actions as unfriendly. "During the past month, Russia took a number of steps as regards Armenia which testify to the chilling in bilateral relations. It has closed down the Verkhny Lars checkpoint, raised the question of suspending Armavia flights over Russian territory, and banned the imports of Armenian cognac." (Panorama.am, August 18.)


Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's invitation to his Iranian colleague Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Tbilisi has prompted experts to think that Georgia may replace Russia as a go-between the West and Iran. "It is clear that Washington is aware of this invitation... Until this day Russia was a mediator between the Iranian authorities and the West. America and the West in general would rather see Tbilisi as a mediator than Moscow... The latter's unilateral mediation has produced no effect so far. We saw that the Tehran authorities became even more radical after Putin met with Ahmadinejad. Moreover, Russia is trying to act as a go between at the talks with the leaders of Palestine and HAMAS." (Rezonansi, August 18.)

The media are indignant that the government rejected Russian assistance in extinguishing a huge forest fire in the south of the country. Hundreds of hectares of forests, which belong to Georgia rather than Saakashvili, have been sacrificed to his stubborn attitude and whims. It is obvious that the president refused help only because it was offered by Russia... As a result, the country has suffered tremendous losses. A normal country would have the culprits put into prison for this. But Saakashvili is lucky - he is the President, and is not liable under Georgian legislation." (Ahali taoba, August 19.)


The opposition press believes that the informal EurAsEc summit in Sochi, which was supposed to become a regional forum aimed at lessening the U.S. influence, has failed to reach its goals. "Meetings and talks have not justified the Kremlin's optimistic expectations. Despite all Moscow's activities, a framework customs union agreement of Russian satellites has not been signed... Despite all the efforts made by the Big Brother, Moscow's allies decided not to openly oppose the West by joining the Russian efforts to establish a new ‘liberal empire'."

It is becoming clear that Russian companies can establish full control over the economies of these countries, which are lagging far behind Russia in economic and industrial development (Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan). Business control is merely a prelude to political control, and for this reason the satellites preferred not to display doglike devotion." (Ekspress, August 17.)

The press is again blaming Russia for its attempts to make its neighbors dependent on its energy and water resources. "Russia is initiating a project for water supply to the entire Central Asia. It will be a water-and-energy consortium... In other words, in future, the key to the tap for the whole region may land in Moscow's hands." (Zerkalo, August 18.)


The press attributes the success of the Sochi summit to the increasing EurAsEc role in the world arena. Even before the summit, experts said that Russia is holding a grievance against the West for the recent failure of the WTO talks and is planning to create an alternative to the WTO on the EurAsEc basis. Judging by all, this is true... "We are not making much progress, and it would be logical for us to move towards unification of tariffs within the EurAsEc framework rather than do nothing," explained Russian presidential assistant Sergey Prikhodko. (EkspressK, August 17.)


The opposition media are negative about the informal EurAsEc summit in Sochi. "Moscow is pegging huge hopes on EurAsEc -- after the failure of WTO talks with the U.S. Russia badly needs to create an economic counterweight, which would also help curb U.S. economic expansion in the post-Soviet space. In this context, the Eurasian Community is the most logical choice." (Obshchestvennyi reiting, August 16.)

The press is writing about Russia's attempts to prevent the republic's cooperation with the West. "Russia is trying to persuade Kyrgyzstan not to join the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) program under the aegis of the IMF and the World Bank. It reasons that this program will deprive Kyrgyzstan of its sovereignty, and make it fully dependent on the U.S. But in exchange, Moscow cannot offer anything else but dependence on Russia." (Obshchestvennyi reiting, August 16.)


Analysts are writing about Moscow's attempts to build up its economic and energy potential at the expense of its Asian neighbors. "Having a grievance against the West for the recent failure of the WTO talks, Moscow intends to come up with its own alternative to this organization. To achieve this, the Kremlin should put the squeeze on its loyal partners, persuade the hesitant ones to distance themselves from the U.S., and make both dependent on energy and water supplies... During preparations for the informal summit Russia had already demonstrated its version of EurAsEc economic integration. Initially, friendly adjacent states will become more dependent on Moscow (of their own free will); furthermore, Moscow will increase its pressure on resisting nations; and eventually it will reach out to the countries which it has not dealt with before. By tradition, energy will be Moscow's trump card." (Fakty i kommentarii, August 17.)
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